A billionaire co-owner of Kazakh fintech giant Kaspi.kz JSC provided the financial backing that helped resolve the biggest asset dispute since Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president in 2019, according to people familiar with the matter.
(Bloomberg) — A billionaire co-owner of Kazakh fintech giant Kaspi.kz JSC provided the financial backing that helped resolve the biggest asset dispute since Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned as president in 2019, according to people familiar with the matter.
Kazakh authorities asked Kaspi’s chairman, Vyacheslav Kim, to extend the previously undisclosed funding that allowed for a change in ownership at First Heartland Jusan Bank, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private details.
Under the terms of the deal reported by Bloomberg last month, Jusan’s minority shareholder Galimzhan Yessenov took control of Kazakhstan’s sixth-biggest private bank and other assets including stakes in state-run telecom companies from a foundation that used to be linked to the first Kazakh president. The settlement included a cash payment of several hundred million dollars, people familiar with the transaction said at the time.
Kim’s role shows how Kazakhstan’s richest people who built their fortunes during Nazarbayev’s long rule are adapting after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev moved to sideline many of his predecessor’s allies and family members in the aftermath of last year’s deadly unrest.
It wasn’t immediately clear what, if anything, Kim may have received for his financial backing or whether Kaspi, Kazakhstan’s second-biggest bank and its most valuable listed company, stood to gain from the transaction. Kim acted in a personal capacity and not on Kaspi’s behalf, the people said.
In a statement sent by Kaspi, Kim said his involvement with Jusan began when he was asked for “personal consultations” by Yessenov, whom he called a longtime friend and partner in joint philanthropic projects.
“I was happy to help so that the situation around Jusan Bank was resolved as quickly as possible and primarily in the interests of clients and the state,” Kim said. “These are my personal matters and it has nothing to do with Kaspi.kz.”
Kim referred other questions to the participants in the deal. “I am not a party to the transaction, I have no direct or indirect benefit,” he said.
Jusan and its biggest shareholder, Yessenov, didn’t reply to a request for comment. Kazakhstan’s presidential administration directed all queries to the government, which didn’t immediately reply.
Kim, who built up Kaspi over more than a decade, has described himself as “a self-made, private sector entrepreneur.” He bought out a 30% stake owned by Nazarbayev’s nephew in 2018 as the bank moved toward an initial public offering.
The Kazakh fintech group, which counted Goldman Sachs Group Inc. among its early investors, staged an IPO in London two years later and now plans to list its shares in the US before the end of this year. The nephew, Kairat Satybaldyuly, was sentenced to six years in jail on embezzlement charges in September 2022.
Kaspi’s stock collapsed in the aftermath of the unrest as Tokayev vowed to take on the country’s entrenched oligarchs following what he called an attempted coup against him. Kaspi’s shares have recouped some losses but remain about a third below their 2021 peak, giving it a market value of just over $18 billion.
The dispute around Jusan was emblematic of controversies brewing across Kazakhstan’s $226 billion economy over massive bailouts to lenders. In 2021, Jusan paid dividends to its shareholders after receiving more than $3 billion in state support in 2018 and 2019 as part of a bailout.
Yessenov’s purchase resolved a months-long legal battle that started after Kazakh prosecutors began proceedings to stop the transfer of the bank’s ownership to a UK-based company. That entity was linked to the foundation set up by Nazarbayev.
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